Organic Fertlizer ?

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by Mowman, Sep 23, 2001.

  1. Tom Crawford

    Tom Crawford LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    I have a niche in environmental law, I am Milorganite's attorney. There has been much progress since 1978, when I was fresh out of law school, worked for Citizens for a Better Environment, and CBE suggested that Milorganite might not be safe for a life time home gardener vegitarian who used Milorganite exclusively on his food garden for 70 years. The concern was cadmuim averaged about 120 parts per million (ppm). In 1992, U.S. EPA finished a comprehensive risk assessment which was the basis for the metals limits for biosolids fertilizer, that is Milorganite. Risk Pathway 2 was the home gardener/vegitarian who, as it turns out, could safely and biosolids if the cadmium (Cd) was as much as 120 ppm.

    Metals limits were based on the most restrictive pathway, which was Pathway 3 the toddler who eats a little biosolids every day for 5 years. Pathway 3 said Milorganite would be safe for the toddler to eat if Cd did not exceed 39 ppm as a monthly average. When I took over pretreatment enforcement in 1989, Cd was about 22 ppm in Milorganite. Today, the annual average Cd is between 2 - 4 parts per million, which is not much above background soils levels in some areas.

    By the way, most of the biosolids fertilizer metals limits were based on Pathway 3, direct consumption by a small child (but not a lot in one feeding because biosolids does not taste good, even worst case risk assessment can't assume the impossible).

    So Milorganite is way under the safe metals limits but there is more. The risk assessment assumed "worst case" that the plow layer would get 1,000 metric tons of sewage sludge applied every year for 100 years to a hectare (one hectare = 2.471 acres), or 100,000 metric tons at one time. If one applies Milorganite 3 times each year the application rate would be 2.2 mt/ha and the plow layer would be safe for 450 years of continuious use, if, if, any of the metals were at the limit set by EPA, which they are not.

    Lead is the limiting metal in Milorganite (that is the closes to a limit), which averages 75 parts per million of lead (this would be about the same as 8 "bbs" of #6 shot for a 12 gauge shotgun in a 40 lb bag). The EPA limit is 300 ppm or 4 times greater (4 times 450 years at 2.2 mt/ha rate). So the level of overprotection in EPA's risk assessment for Milorganite is huge, a no observable adverse affect level for the dirt eating toddler that is almost a biblical time frame (1,800 years). That is the worst case exposure from Milorganite use. We have taken the "Do not eat" warning off the bag.

    Anyone interested in the details the continuious daily sampling of Milorganite need only contact me (414 225 - 2243). The Milorganite annual report (about an inch of analytic results) is filed with the environmental protection agency of each state. The maximum metals levels expected in an bag of Milorganite (because there is variablity, and I have been speaking of averages) is posted on the State of Washington Dept. of Ag. website,, which now requires (as does Texas) metals analysis of all fertilizers (the biosolids limits developed by EPA are still more stringent than for other fertilizers).

    The good news is great progress has been made and biosolids generally are much cleaner today than 10 or 20 years ago. Milorganite has been on the market for 75 years now, is much scrutized, is "cleaner" than ever, and continues to set the standard of quality for the rest of the biosolids industry.
    Tom Crawford
  2. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    This is exactly the sort of quality flow of information I always hoped the innernet could provide.

    While some extreme liberal environmentalists would try to use Tom's information against us, it is this sort of knowlege that gives us power.

    I haven't treated lawns commercially in 11 years now, but in the prior 10+ years was harassed by extremist wackos on more than a few occasions. After the 2nd confrontation, I vowed to arm myself with the facts. It took a few years to hone this part of my craft. After a while the data & the talk began to work together. I haven't lost a debate with a liberal in about 15 years now.

    You see, extremists quote their emotions. When armed with facts & a good mouth, we can win. Extremists get all panicky when you "cheat" by stating facts, clearly & consicely. I've even made a few cry. It's not easy to keep a straight face when the opposition to our industy has to resort to tears. Choking out statements like " I'm trying to save your body & your soul!" Metro NY is loaded with well intentioned yet ill advised so called environmentalists.

    Some applicators are not properly versed in defending their position with respect to the environment. We are here to help and someone accuses you of being the problem. Facts are rarely understood by the layperson, but they sometimes identify with the "spin" placed on interpretation. To be effective, we should all try to arm ourselves with the facts and the proper means of presenting them. People are afraid of what they don't understand. All LCO's should be able to provide enough information to help customers feel comfortable with what, why, & how they do what they do safely.

    Many thanks to Tom for taking the time to collect & post the data he has amassed at the front line. Without this type of information, we have less power to defend ourselves. Regardless of which politically incorrect aspect of our industry you are trying to defend, the facts allways help.

  3. morturf

    morturf LawnSite Senior Member
    from midwest
    Messages: 476

    I posted a while back but it got here goes again.

    tremor said. in his first post.
    "I don't like most of the so called activated sewage sludges. A famous organic from Milwaukee was nearly forced by the federal government to clean up its act a few years back. Seems that some municipalities have trouble keeping toxic metals out of the sanitary sewer system. Mercury, Lead, Cadmium,Selenium, etc, have all turned up in activated sludges. The famous company voluntarily cleaned up a bit, but they are still "grandfathered" and don't have to meet the same standards that other sludge towns like Boston have to meet. "

    Tremor said in his last post.
    "You see, extremists quote their emotions. When armed with facts & a good mouth, we can win. Extremists get all panicky when you "cheat" by stating facts, clearly & consicely."

    I don't want to get into a shooting match here, but you got a little nasty with me earlier.
    You seem to have it both ways. In your earlier post you blasted this product out of hand, without benefit of credible evidence and being a industry insider you could make a problem worse instead of better by doing that. People that come here often cite this as a credible source of information. I for one always take what I read on the internet with a grain of salt.
    I am glad you care enough to look at the facts but are you big enough to admit you were wrong about the content of this product. Or are you going to cry like an environmentalist. LOL. Thanks for putting a little passion in my late season. I really needed it. This is one post i really enjoyed following. Thanks Steve.
  4. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Hello Mike Morturf,

    OK, I am very sorry if I hurt your feelings. Perhaps I didn't phrase myself properly the first time I referenced Bio-Solids. It isn't me that feels they're not safe enough to use. But the liberal wacko environmentalists that are running around in New York WILL challenge any Lawn Care Applicator that isn't using Mother's Milk on the lawns in an effort to save the environment from anything that isn't sqeaky clean.

    Tom was kind enough to post a link to the State of Washington Dept.of Agriculture website, but the link didn't work.

    This one should. You look for yourself at the difference between human tankage and poultry manure.

    Milorginite 6-2-0

    Sustane 5-2-4

    The next time I have to argue our industries valor is Thursday 10-4-01 7:30PM at the full legislative council session of the Rockland County New York board of legislators.

    Now let's pretend it isn't me who is going into the trenches tomorrow night. You're going in my place.

    If the argument being made was sources of fertilizers and not pesticides, which one of the above mentioned products would you want to argue for?

    For those who aren't from New York or don't follow the news, our industry is getting attacked by someone, somewhere virtually everyday.

    Don't believe me? Check out the New York Public Interest Group. Laura Haight actually said an anti-pesticide prayer at the last session. Honest.

    If anyone will be in the area tomorrow night, and would like to put the mouth where the money comes from in defense of OUR industry, please let me know. We need all the help we can get. We is everyone who cares enough to follow this thread.

    I always admit when I'm wrong, but only when I am.

    Wish me luck
  5. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

  6. IMHO Milorginite 6-0-2 is simply not cost and labor effective.

    There is no comparison vs. a product like Lesco 32-5-7 50% slow N.

    This product will give killer results even cut to a rate of one bag per acre=11-1.75-2.5.

    How many bags of Milorginite do you apply to one acre?

    My turf gets enough organic matter from just recycling all the thatch, clippings, and leaf matter over the course of a season.

    A dino product fits better with my style of agronomy. Plus I only have a c1500 and can't haul tons of product.
  7. Pete Cavallaro

    Pete Cavallaro LawnSite Member
    Messages: 1

    Hello to all my friends,

    New ones and old (Mr. Ed Hendricks-still in the biz!)
    tremor - I found that my name had been used in your response to a post, please call me, I do not know whom you are, 440-748-0264, but would love to chat. This is the first time I have ever written to a message board, and I hope I am doing this correct. Those of you who know me, I am no longer with LESCO and as tremor mentioned, I am with Harmony Products as National Account Sales Manager for the lawn care business. In my new role, I will be helping our distributors work with lawn care companies throughout the country. I will also be helping lawn care professionals like all of you with building organic-based and organic programs (more on those terms later).

    Mike- I'm sorry to hear that you are switching to North Country Organics, it sounded as if most of your experience has been with the Harmony product. If there is any way I could help with your program, please call me. I would also like to know how you are advertising organic fertilizer? Harmony also offers non- "Bridge" organic products as well as the "Bridge" products.

    Enough of the commercial.

    More on the terms used in our industry-
    The definitions for "Organic" are many- Here are AAPFCO' definitions. (Association of American Plant Food Control Officials - Standard rules of the Industry). This excludes a state that makes their own rules...that’s another thread!

    "T-12 Organic Fertilizer - A material containing carbon and one or more elements other than hydrogen and oxygen essential for plant growth. (Official 1973)
    T-13 Natural Organic Fertilizer - Material derived from either plant or animal products containing one or more elements (other than carbon, hydrogen and oxygen), which are essential for plant growth. These materials, may be subjected to biological degradation processes under normal conditions of aging, rainfall, sun curing, air drying, composing, rotting, enzymatic, or anaerobic/aerobic bacterial action, or any combination of these. These materials shall not be mixed with synthetic materials or changed in any physical or chemical manner from their initial state except by manipulations such as drying, cooking, chopping, grinding, shredding, hydrolysis, or pelleting. (Official 1994)
    T-35 Natural Inorganic Fertilizer - A mineral nutrient source that exists in or is produced by nature and may be altered from its original state only by physical manipulation (Official 1993)
    T-36 Natural Fertilizer - A substance composed only of natural organic and /or natural inorganic fertilizer materials and natural fillers. (Official 1993)
    T-38 Natural Base Fertilizer - A mixed fertilizer where more than half of the fertilizer material is natural and where more than half of the sum of the guaranteed primary nutrient percentages is derived from natural materials. (Official 1995)
    T-39- Organic Base fertilizer - A mixed fertilizer where more than half of the fertilizer material is organic and where more than half of the sum of the guaranteed primary nutrient percentages is derived from organic materials. (Official 1995)
    T-48 Biosolids - A primary organic solid material produced by wastewater treatment processes that can be beneficially recycled for its plant nutrient content and soil amending characteristics (Official 1998)"
    Other definitions include Primary Nutrients such as N-P-K and synthetic - any substance generated from another material or materials by means of a chemical reaction. I thought these terms might shed some light on what the industry fines acceptable.

    Sorry for the book...One thing to keep in mind, and not to sound like a lecture, if you are using any fertilizer that contains any Organic Matter in the formulation, you are doing the right things for your customer's lawns, trees, and ornamentals. This is something I have believed in for many years. Those of you who know me, know of my conviction for the industry and my views on organics, I don't want this forum to be a sales call (I could talk all day about the benefits of organics), if someone wants to speak with me, please call.

    I thought this site was rather thought provoking and I like the educational type forum. I hope I have contributed to the discussion. "Knowledge is power, never stop learning." I believe Steve did a great job of discussing the you work with me? LOL

    Thanks all,
    Pete Cavallaro
  8. morturf

    morturf LawnSite Senior Member
    from midwest
    Messages: 476

    While this moves a little off the topic, but just a little and I believe it is germane to it.
    I agree with you about the environmental extremists. I am also glad that I live in an area that is still very agrarian based. While I know that the people in the state New York have problems with chemicals and our industry, I think they don’t understand where the path leads that they are going down. There is a lot of NIMBY going on out there. We are involved in agriculture, and to that end we in this business are not far removed from food production. By that I mean that we are the most visible part of agriculture to the urban centers. Most in those urban centers believe food comes from a grocery store. Being from the breadbasket as I am, not having a mainly urban base in population. Our people for the most part are not as many generations removed from the food production side of life. We have a more rational approach to chemicals and their uses.
    I believe as I hope most in this industry do that IPM should be practiced. I try my utmost to minimize my use of chemicals. I treat something in the neighborhood of 150 acres of lawns in a year. I use 25% less chemicals (weed and insect control) in a year over the same amount of area than the other LCO’s do in one round of a typical 4 or 5 application program. When I treat a lawn with insecticide, it has to have had a history of problems, and then I only treat areas in that lawn that is susceptible to those insects. In the last 20 years I have not blanket sprayed herbicide on a residential lawn. I spot spray only. I walk a lot! I use Milorganite because it doesn’t move in the soil and it lasts 12 to 16 weeks on our area. I use long chain urea for the same reason. I have a big truck and lots of miles behind a spreader!
    When we lose a chemical there is a cascade effect that ripples to the end of the chemical and agricultural industry. I am not saying that we should use harmful chemicals, if one is found that is detrimental, by all means we should not use it. This is what makes the chemical producers formulate safer and more effective alternatives. But on the other hand, the environmentalists have a hard time remembering what it was like when you couldn’t see out the screen door because the flies were so thick on it, or apples with worms in them, and cockroaches in their pantries. We live fairly insulated. Part of the reason some of these nasty bugs don’t infect them is because you and I take care of them on our own property (house/yard). It is a lot like people that refuse to immunize their children because they don’t want them to get sick, but the real reason they don’t get sick is because you and I had our children immunized. Lets just say West Nile virus were found in the county you are talking to tonight, they would undoubtedly want to spray a chemical to rid themselves of the carriers.

    We in this industry will continue to have things taken away. We will endure because most think that what we do contributes to everyone’s life. I am not saying that lawn care can cure the common cold. We enhance the beauty of our world. Tremor, I wish I were close enough to your county to help you with that board. I hope all goes well.
  9. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Hello Everyone,

    Rockland County NY has fallen.

    Despite a clear win in tonights debate and the fact that the liberal districts rep's agreed with us that the law is significantly flawed, they still chose to opt in & hope that Albany funds some teeth (horrors) or redefines the overall goal.

    The extreme liberal wackos were there in big numbers & all had a lie or misconception to communicate, but we were great and had greater numbers. Too bad the outcome of the game had been decided before we even got started.

    The more rural Onondaga Co. was a win for the industry, but the opposition wasn't as well entrenched either.

    So, Pete, how soon we forget! How many Steve's do you know from Stratford CT anyway? LESCO? Anyway, I hope all is well with you. I'll be in the office in the morning if your around. We took our defeat at 12:15AM & I just got back & it's like 2:15AM now so don't call early! 203-378-0191

    Let's keep fighting!
  10. One of the big problems (with Milorginite) other than you have to apply 5 times more material at 2.5x the cost vs. a quality dino product is that the product (Milorginite) only contains 1/2% of K.

    Bluegrass needs much more K especially in preparation for a period of mid summer drought.

    I can apply bulk local compost and apply just as easy as a product in a bag w/o having to get rid of all those bags at a fraction of the cost of Milorginite.


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